Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind

on December 31, 2002 by Michael Tunison
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Along with dreaming up such intelligence-assailing TV fare as "The Dating Game" and "The Gong Show," nutball TV producer Chuck Barris doubled as a deadly freelance covert operative who assassinated dozens of the CIA's Cold War enemies. Or not. In the end, who really cares how much of this adaptation of Barris' "autobiography" is fact and how much is the product of the author's fertile imagination? The important thing is that George Clooney's assured directorial debut spins this bizarre premise into one of the year's most weirdly engaging and unpredictable character pieces.

Using Milos Forman's offbeat celebrity bios "The People Vs. Larry Flynt" and "Man on the Moon" as its models, "Confessions" follows Barris (Sam Rockwell from "Galaxy Quest") from his struggling TV industry wannabe days through his mid-'60s breakthrough with "The Dating Game" and purported recruitment by a no-nonsense CIA handler (Clooney), who will say only that the clearly unstable Barris "fits the profile" to undertake Commie-killing missions abroad. Of the countless women the hero is involved with along the way, the two most important are the ever-supportive Penny (Drew Barrymore) and an agent creeping in the same cloak-and-dagger circles (Julia Roberts).

Scripted by mind-bender specialist Charlie Kaufman ("Adaptation," "Being John Malkovich") and executive produced by Clooney's frequent partner in crime Steven Soderbergh ("Solaris"), "Confessions" is notable not only for its gleefully subversive energy and idiosyncratic twists, but also for its unflinching portrait of a driven, unreflective man whose personal relationships are as shallow and disposable as the boob-tube dreck he so enthusiastically pushes on the masses. That the story of such a disagreeable protagonist develops so much emotional resonance owes a great deal to Rockwell's wonderfully multilayered performance, which should finally bring the actor some deserved mainstream attention after years of strong work in supporting roles. Starring Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Rutger Hauer. Directed by George Clooney. Written by Charlie Kaufman. Produced by Andrew Lazar. A Miramax release. Comedy/drama. Rated R for language, sexual content and violence. Running time: 112 min

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